back to article Win XP alive and kicking despite 2014 kill switch (Don't ask about Win 8)

Uptake of Windows 8 for desktop computers – which was never particularly fast – has slowed, according to stats for July from web traffic pollsters Net Applications. Microsoft's latest operating system held a 5.4 per cent of the global desktop OS market last month, up 0.3 points on June which was up 0.83 points on May. A glance …

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The price of progress - and the systematic waste of human endeavour

"its use has been falling rather too slowly for the industry " - which says it all. The industry lives by forcing users to pay, regularly, to keep theie software "up to date". Leaving aside the geeks who always want to be seen having the latest versions of everything, for ordinary users this means that a whole raft of applications on which they depend suddenly stop working; old file formats now become unreadable; the user interface has been completely remodelled, using the vendors latest one-size-fits-all arrogance, to ensure that everything takes longer; and so on.

If the industry started focusing on the needs of its users rather than its own insatiable appetite to extract revenue from users who do not want reguler revolutions, enforced changes and new incompatibilities, an enormous swathe of human endeavour could be applied to useful activities rather than enduring the pain of enforced "progress" in order to be able to do rather less than they could previously.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The price of progress - and the systematic waste of human endeavour

Ain't that the truth.

"If the industry started focusing on the needs of its users rather than its own insatiable appetite to extract revenue from users "

That would perhaps be called something like "investment protection", whereas today's IT is viewed (by vendors at least) as disposable commodities.

(Re)focusing on things like investment protection and value for money would involve corporate IT/IS departments mostly having their budgets reduced, and having to focus on the needs of the organisation which they are supposed to be serving.

Even outside the corporate market, it would involve retailers having fewer selling opportunities.

How would that ever catch on?

There was at least one company which for many years in the corporate market liked to talk about its focus on "investment protection".

Tribute to that is that much of their stuff that worked in 1978 still works in 2013.

Obviously with a track record of "investment protection" like that, the original company no longer exists.

But VMS lives on (just about, despite HP's best efforts).

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Paris Hilton

I personally believe the biggest mistake that Microsoft made was not killing XP sooner. I had this discusion recently with a friend.

So I went from 3.11 to 95 then 3 years later I had 98. I then waited 2 years and I got ME (let's try and forget) which was such a huge mistake that XP was forced upon the world. So in 2001 I started using XP, not XP SP3 which some people are happily using now or XP64 SP2. Then the release schedule seemed to be extended, we had 6 years before Vista. I liked Vista, I had machines that could handle it. Then we waited a standard 2 years for 7. The release of 8 was 3 years later which is again a reasonable timeframe for updates.

So the problem is not that XP is awesome (it's not). It's that people got left alone with XP for 6 years. This would normally have seen 2 releases in this time, instead it saw none. This led to complacency in the market and has led to the problems now.

Remember, new is always better. They should have killed XP support in 2007 and have replaced it in 2004 in my opinion.

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DJO

"Remember, new is always better."

You should go on the stage, that's the funniest thing I've read for ages. You yourself implied how much better ME was compared to '98 and everybody just loves W8 so much that W7 has all but disappeared.

"So the problem is not that XP is awesome (it's not)"

Maybe not awesome but for a long time it was the least bad Windows desktop system available.

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The extra long time between XP and Vista was not by choice. They couldn't get the product finished and I believe cancelled the 1st broken attempt, then rushed Vista out without much thought or user testing. MS would have tried killing XP on schedule otherwise. Vista meant they couldn't kill it even with a new product on sale.

The only significant difference with XP is they released free service packs that changed XP about as much as the 95 -> 98 -> ME upgrades changed 95.

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That Was the Plan: The World Did Not Cooperate

Vista was ill-timed, it should have been 12-24 months later, but they thought they had to do something and its delay occurred because of mis-steps and internal concerns being amplified into revenue threats.

Vista started out as Longhorn, which would have a filesystem with relational database overlay so as to help users find their stuff (and related stuff) quickly. Also, Apple had implemented its graphical interface in Display Postscript, meaning the screen and the printers were fed the same data, PDF saving of any printable element was a side effect that customers liked. Microsoft, and I don't think it was copying, it was just the obvious way to go, does something similar (using a pdf knock-off called xps) and gives it a brand name.

ILuvYou breaks in 2003, and Microsoft has an effective year-long security introspection. Longhorn's team focuses on security and XP SP2. 2004, otherwise the expected year for Longhorn, passes without its release.

In 2005 or so, Google has made a huge business out of search services and it is most definitely not using relational techniques to produce quick results from searches of that dynamic database called the internet. Adios the relational file database system. Hello, background indexing, metadata, and utilizing mutli-cores and parallel processing.

As Apple discovered when it went Quartz/Aqua, the nice graphics extracts a large cost in speed. Apple let the processors improve and did some optimizations (farewell pinstripes?). and had nearly annual os updates. (Performance improvements, that's why we paid paid for our service packs, they added value!) Microsoft will put the optimizations in service packs and the follow-up to Longhorn.

2005, Microsoft discovers that the NT code base is such a hair-ball that something has to be done. A hero is born as one of the engineers leads a team that makes the os more modular and which means that there will be a successor to XP, something the unreconstructed codebase was not going to enable. Wall Street, meanwhile, is saying that Microsoft is clearly having problems with shipping a key product. It's right and wrong. Microsoft was having problems, there was a tiny bit of erosion of share to Apple, every speaker at a tech conference saw more Apple logos glowing back, and web developers invested in LAMP decided that the best platforms for development were Linux or OS X, so farewell cutting-edge users. Wall Street was wrong in that Microsoft still put money in the bank if the pc sold was running XP.

At the end of 2005, Bill Gates said Vista would ship at the end of 2006, unless it wasn't ready, because Microsoft was committed to getting it right. I suspect that meant it was coming at the end of 2006 no matter what.

Turns out, the "what" was driver support from third parties. Many folks excited by Vista's release quickly restore XP as their computer, even the ones with the Microsoft approved "Vista Capable" sticker, didn't have the graphics horsepower to work. Some found that key peripherals wouldn't work and could not work until the vendor provided a driver. Enterprise waits a year for the first service pack and generally decides that Vista is not for them. (They use their license fees to continue to run XP, Microsoft's net loss for the choice, 0.)

In 2007, OEMs started to put out Netbooks, small, light, single-core Intel processor powered, and inexpensive computers that took off like gangbusters. Mostly ran Linux because it brought retail costs down. Linux had 70% of the share in that sector. That was a big problem in Redmond—Wall Street are not the only ones with misguided perspectives—and so Microsoft needed to spend some money to get that share number turned around.

But, Vista was too big and needed too much processor power, so XP's life was extended because it could run on Netbooks.

Microsoft also lost revenues because the Netbook XP license was discounted in order to help the OEMs choose Windows without having zero profit. There was a Win7 Starter Version (remember the brouhaha pre-release because it would only allow three applications to be opened at a single time?) which was discounted, but could not be used by an OEM except the device truly was small and low-powered.

Netbooks were a short-lived phenomenon. Something people bought because Microsoft and its OEMs didn't figure out light-weight, portable computing the way Apple did with the iPhone, to some degree, and the iPad, most definitely.

So missing search, codebase sprawl, next-gen graphics now requiring better hardware, advanced security that changed the rules for drivers, mollifying Wall Street, moving faster than their platform affiliates, missing netbooks, and caring about netbooks (and I have no doubts that there were dissenters to upper management who focused elsewhere and missed opportunities or didn't apply the stitch in time), these are the goofs that led to Zombie XP.

Oh, and Vista, Win7, and Win8 did not provide utilities for seamless migration of applications from XP. When it was clear to me, an Apple-using idiot, that Microsoft's first task was to GET FOLKS OFF OF XP, they didn't spend the engineering resources to make it easy.

Ah well, big company, big problems. Besides, my large-caps nonetheless, Microsoft's real problems aren't Win8 or XP, it's that people are holding on to old pcs, because the hardware advancement has a smaller delta YOY than 10 years back, the negative growth in new computer sales, though this may be temporary, and where there is sales growth, someone else's operating system is on the device. Easy migration is one more mitigation, but really, if the computer turns on and the applications works, that's as much as many folks care about. Besides, Microsoft still makes money, so XP migration revenues at this time would be the frosting roses on top of a nicely frosted cake. Once support stops, the cost for having XP users goes to 0.

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Happy

@PartTimeLegend: "They should have killed XP support in 2007"

they did. But then the netbooks came along - with LINUX. To stop that trend MS came up with a sweetheart XP license for netbooks, and thus extended the life (and reach) of XP.

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Re: That Was the Plan: The World Did Not Cooperate

You forgot to mention the bit about one major reason why Vista sucked so badly - DRM.

Yes, a lot of the effort they put in to "securing" the OS had little to do with protecting the end user, and a lot to do with sucking up to Hollywood as they hoped to make Windows the #1 choice for home consumers of media, rather then actual business/engineering/software development stuff.

See: http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/vista_cost.html

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Re: That Was the Plan: The World Did Not Cooperate

You beat me to it.

The DRM/Hollywood conspiracy stopped me using any MS products from that (Vista) time.

I can run all the applications that I need using Linux, so the end result was a good one.

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Bronze badge

Rushed Vista out without much though or user testing, you say? Sounds like Windows 8. People aren't using Windows 8 out of choice from what I see in my market of support (small business/home users) - they're buying it because they need a new computer. First thing I do with Windows 8 is install classic shell or Start8, so that it just "works like you're used to". Windows 8 might be fast and possibly reliable, but the whole UI is a train-wreck. It is universally (from what I can see) despited, or and best just tolerated.

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@danny: seamless migration of applications from XP

Epic Microsoft stupidity (or arrogance). Normal users face a choice of losing everything or sticking with XP. IT geeks install a dual boot so they can take time rescuing old data and apps.

I've had to drop back into my XP backup several times to fix Win8 problems or where it's easier than trying to reinstall and configure programs. The temptation to just switch back is strong and the lack-of-upgrade process just makes it easier. Of course during those sessions I went online, bumping that XP count an insignificant amount!

That must have been a frosty management meeting, where the engineers tried explaining why they couldn't make this a one way only update this time ;)

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Funny how El Reg keeps flogging Microsoft Security Updates for XP, even tho the evidence clearly shows virtually everyone else considers that an irrelevant data point.

Give it up, El Reg, it's not going to happen.

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MJI
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If MS didn't remove features

Maybe we would get newer OSes

Perhaps that graphical DOS app cost a lot of money?

Funny that our DOS app runs up to XP and our Windows APP starts on XP.

Vista killed DOS full screen

7 Killed NETBIOS (AFAIR)

8 is too different

So XP stays on

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upgrate, good luck with that

We have some machines that have XP boxes to run them. The machine and software on the PC to run the machines use the game port to tell the program when a sensor is activated. After XP, there is no game port support. So, Microbrain wants us to dump XP, but for no real reason they gave us no upgrade path. How hard would it be to code in the driver for game port. Another legacy Microbrain fail.

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And it's still being sold!

I discovered last week that the brand new till/stock management system that was sold to our village shop three months ago actually runs on XP! We discovered this when rebooting after a powercut - it looks like there's some sort of Windows POS system as well, but really! How can they have the cheek to sell XP based systems only months before support is stopped?

Don't get me wrong, I like XP, but only on old machines. New machines should run Win 7 (obviously)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: windows POS

Is that P for point or P for piece?

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Re: And it's still being sold!

You'll almost certainly find that the version of Windows on that system is XP Embedded, which is supported through to 2016, and which MS are still happily selling.

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Unhappy

Re: windows POS

> Is that P for point or P for piece?

Having to support RMS, I can assure you it's both.

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Browsium are talking out of their backsides

"Browsium states: “There’s clearly a lot of work ahead for enterprise IT." "

Clearly? Remind me again, which part of the browser's user agent string clearly indicates that this is an enterprise user rather than a home user?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Browsium are talking out of their backsides

The bit that also states " We were mugs and and also have to stick with ie6"?

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High water mark

June was the high water market hitting nearly a whole one percentage point of growth. Last month, though, its rate of increase slumped.

If you hit the beach like the techies are supposed to be doing, you will have the opportunity to wade into the sea until it comes up to your nose. You will find that the high water mark is not the point at which the rate of rise decreases, but the point at which the water stops rising.

A reduction in the rate of growth is not a decline, and is only indicative of a decline if you can predict the shape of the curve.

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N2

I have

Just one program requiring Windows so I run it on XP in a VM, it would also run on W2000 so those two are my OS of choice. Once Ive re-written my db to another format its curtains for Windows.

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Embeded XP as found on kiosks and terminals is totally different than that installed on Home PCs so the risk to these systems is usually minimal as they normally have no internet connection.

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Anonymous Coward

"Embeded XP as found on kiosks and terminals is totally different than that installed on Home PCs"

Not really. XP Embedded is not really "totally different" from its parent OS, though it may well be considered "cut down from" its parent OS.

XP Embedded starts with XP Pro (see [1]). The system image can then be configured so that specific bits of XP (Pro) not needed in their target environment aren't built in to the system image. Beyond that, the actual OS code is identical between XP Embedded and XP Pro. Microsoft say so themselves (e.g. in [1]). There are a few other differences for specific limited purposes, such as enabling readonly system disk hardware by intercepting writes and putting them somewhere else.

Therefore the vulnerabilities (and corresponding fixes) are the same too (though the relevant code may sometimes be configured out of some people's images).

"they normally have no internet connection."

And no LAN? And no sneakernet? At all? Might apply to some, certainly doesn't apply to all.

[1] Here are some words from MS. (NB afaik the same applies to XP SP3, this document hasn't been kept up to date, and there have been some changes in the details, but the core principles remain the same):

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms838630%28v=winembedded.5%29.aspx

"Microsoft® Windows® XP Embedded with Service Pack 1 (SP1) is a fully componentized version of Windows XP Professional that includes embedded enabling features (EEF). Built on the same binary code as Windows XP Professional, Windows XP Embedded with SP1 includes key features such as standards-based security, manageability, reliability, Universal Plug and Play, and an easy-to-use user interface. It is targeted at embedded devices that are built on commodity PC hardware and require all Windows application program interfaces (APIs), services, and protocols."

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Within the margin of error?

I went to the netmarketshare site and looked at the trend for Aug '11 to July '13. This is the fifth occasion that XP has shown an increase in any given month over that period of time, set against a general decline in its market share from 52% to 37%. From this I conclude that even though the sample population is large - 160m unique IPs? - there is still going to be month-to-month variation, possibly up to 1 percentage point.

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Why not charge for support?

Given that people seem to want to hold onto WinXP, why not monetize that? MS could charge $5-10/year for support per instance for consumers, and some other figure for enterprise installations after early 2014. At least make this non-adoption pay.

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Holmes

Mark my words

Like the cloud, this will come back to bite us all in the arse.

XP is outdated. Period. Take it from someone who has been fixing XP machines for years. Literally 10s of thousands of them.

Stable? Not.

Fast? Not.

Secure? You have to be kidding.

Flame away, but I've worked from small business to enterprise since XP first came out. Great in its day, but it is now hopelessly, hopelessly dated.

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Stop

@ecofeco - Re: Mark my words

You are absolutely correct, but as I said in my earlier post, we're not upgrading come 2014.

I say again - simply because Microsoft has no satisfactory replacement for XP!

Yes, there's upgrades but they do not do exactly what XP does. Nor do the newer Windows O/Ses have exactly what we want by way of features (WinFS or a new filing system for instance).

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Paris Hilton

the internet will be at risk ..

will be building a Windows 7 machine soon .. that's for features and hardware XP won't handle .. otherwise will be keeping 2 XP machines running .. Windows problems are mostly caused by the piss poor hardware in most Win Boxen .. and negligent users .. Win95 O/S R2 32bit .. Win98SE .. both stable for the time I used them .. I've really needed no more from the Windows UI than 98SE .. Run XP in Classic so it looks like Win2000 .. also a sufficient O/S .. and I will keep my XP machines running ..

at some point soon after April 2014 .. XP will need to be isolated from the internet .. there's a lot of cash strapped SMBs that might get 3 or 4 Win7 machines where needed facing the web .. but businesses are running all kinds of programs and machinery on XP ( Win3.1 too!).. on machines that have years of life if maintained ... that being said ..

there will likely be a very serious internet security problem develop if 35% .. or even 10% of machines on the internet are running XP without security patches for the O/S and IE .. those machines will be owed within months despite the efforts of anti-virus .. security companies and government agencies .. we might be talking about 200 million machines or more to be owned .. even a 10 million machine botnet could f**k things up royally

so while MS is not obligated to keep XP secure beyond April 2014 .. if they don't .. or don't co-operate to have others do so .. the internet connected world is going to be cracked wide open and disrupted at minimum

this is a National Security issue for almost every nation in the world .. the data breech potential for industry .. banking .. a cyberwar full-on perhaps ? ..

don't think it would be unreasonable an alliance of the EU and the Americas to require MS to continue security updates for WinXP and related MS software .. US alone could require it ..

Paris .. because I've been a bit dramatic

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The April 2014 deadline

Been the case since sp3. XP is dead move on. Most of the issues are software poorly written and/or packaged. I agree win 8 is a no go. 7 seems fairly stable now. It takes a day to do a build and capture of 7 all those .net updates. I dread to think how long xp would take.

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They fixed it until it was broken

XP - yes

Win 7 - yes

Win 8 - why?

The first two were good steps, Windows 8 is really cosmetic. There are a few nice things that could have been incorporated into 7.

I know Microsoft are driven by market cycles but isn't the basic problem that the update (virtually all for security) are killing them?

Maybe we should stop thinking of an OS as having a lifetime warranty.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They fixed it until it was broken

"Maybe we should stop thinking of an OS as having a lifetime warranty."

We certainly should, and I'll happily start working trying to persuade people to share that view once the operating system licences also cease to apply the moment the OS vendor stops support. If the licence is indefinite on the other hand ..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They fixed it until it was broken

I got the £14.95 update. A lot of laptops were sold with 7 home only, and the update was to 8 pro, which gave me rdp. I reckon that's about what Win 8 is worth compared to Win 7. But the faster boot is useful.

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For those that are crying move on the reality is there are specialists software packages used by many businesses that are unsupported any other OS and if it works why spend money to change .Secondly for home users, why throw away a perfectly working piece of hardware [PC,printer,scanner etc] just because the specs don't support windows 8 or even 7, what a complete waste to the environment and again spending money for no reason.

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So Microsoft should absorb the cost of keeping that hardware/software running, just because the vendors themselves can't be bothered?

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What microsoft should do....

..and would win them a huge market share, would be to port an XP like interface to something resembling Linux

And call it Windows Legacy.

I.e. a piece of middleware that runs on Linux, and allows 99% of .exes to actually run,translating OS and screen calls into native linux and X respectively. I'd pay money for that.

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Many of our customers are so desperate that they hamster XP licenses through buying used machines :) They are absolutely uninterested in making a forced move to 7 - their current stack works and it's not trivial to make the move. It will also cost money they would love to spend on something else - like marketing.

Even funnier - I was fixing some telephony in a city hall a few days ago - haven't seen a machine w/o XP there ;)

For us it's not much of a concern - our company is all about open source and hardcore stuff - but I can see this being a strangle here and there that can also affect the amount of orders flowing into our pocket.

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Pfffffff

Get me a supported OS/distro that didn't get patches/fixes. Now get me one that didn't need patches/fixes by it's EOL. Failed? Of course you did...

Thus, logic implies that whether old or new it's gonna have flaws. It's not whether or not it has them that matters, it's whether or not it's a particular show stopper for your setup.

IF XP reaches EOL, i won't be any worse than i was the day before, because it either worked the day before or it didn't. EOL didn't bring anything new, just means there won't be more patches/fixes henceforth.

And me, like many others, won't go jumping through hoops just to have the "latest bling" for fashion's sake, time better spent using/maintaining our established app/hardware base.

Give me a critical/killer app that the old OS can't run and i'll start upgrading. Can't find one? Sod luck...

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installations vs visits

There seems to have been some confusion between new OS installations and people accessing websites :

"we're told the stats were gathered from the logs of some 160m unique web surfers hitting 40,000 websites in the pollster's analytics network: each visitor's browser is expected to reveal some basic information about their computer"

I know one can be used as an approximation of the other but this will contribute to the monthly variation others have already noted. I expect another seasonal factor will be students going home and switching to their favourite fondleslab.

I also doubt that many kiosks access access the websites used in the survey , so don't think they will be showing up in the stats.

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Some specialized sw will only run on XP.

I had to install XP sp3 on two servers last month because the sw won't run on Win 7 or 8

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FAIL

Windows 8 FAIL

As was written by Paul Graham some time ago:

"I'm now surprised when I come across a computer running Windows. Nearly all the people we fund at [company] use Apple laptops. It was the same in the audience at startup school. All the computer people use Macs or Linux now. Windows is for grandmas, like Macs used to be in the 90s. So not only does the desktop no longer matter, no one who cares about computers uses Microsoft's anyway."

So it doesn't matter which flavor they're drinking on board the Titanic; it's still sinking anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Windows 8 FAIL

That comment was so over the top, it reminds me of reading textbooks from the late 90s before throwing them out, and seeing the absolute conviction of every author that technology X would dominate the market in 5 years, where technology X is now at best a niche.

Wild exaggeration is endemic in the industry,and it gets worse not better.

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Re: Windows 8 FAIL

Funny that you mention that; the article I cited was written in 2007, and it certainly has proven true.

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Facepalm

@ribosome: Re: Windows 8 FAIL

I hope you have:

"I'm a Windows user - and proud of it"

stamped on your T-shirts.

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Linux

ReactOS?

I didn't read all 107 previous comments. Is the solution a better version NOT controlled by MS of NT 5.3?

Maybe all us programmers should sign up and help ReactOS.

Linux is fine, But even with Wine isn't an alternative to XP --> Win8 for many people. Maybe ReactOS is?

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Re: ReactOS?

I might be able to get on board with that. However, according to wiki, the project has been around since 1998, yet is still an alpha release. It is the same story with almost every other alternative alternative OS like Haiku and Syllable. I get the feeling a thousand new developers on the project would probably not change much.

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Flame

@virhunter - Re: ReactOS?

ReactOS? Why not?

Because the damn product simply DOES NOT WORK.

Even the latest version WILL NOT BOOT on any machine that I have here. It just crashes.

ReactOS is going nowhere. Very unfortunately -- tragically even!!

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Ignoring the doom and gloom security issues (i.e. no security patches to fix vulnerabilities).

The real reason people will be forced to upgrade is machine failure - nobody is going to produce XP drivers for modern hardware; so one or two GPU/CPU/chipset spins from now you won't be able to install XP and make it work reasonably.

Linux is not really any better in this respect - the difference is you can upgrade for free, provided you like what your distro offers in each subsequent release.

If the applications you have won't run on >XP then you need to put pressure on the vendor (or internal developers) to address this, otherwise you will just end up stranded - your best hope at that point will be <whatever-OS> hosting a VM with XP inside to support legacy applications, with whatever licensing restrictions that might come with.

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Facepalm

Hello, missing the point!

Whilst all the M$ bashers are shrieking with joy at this news, they are missing the very obvious point that the WinXP migrators are still moving to another M$ OS, and not Linux or any flavor of Apple. As an M$ exec pointed out to a group of us customers last week in a presentation about Win Server 2012 R2, as long as the customers pay to stay on the M$ train then M$ is not too bothered which carriage they sit in (WS 2008 or WS 2012, or Win7 or Win8), it is empty carriages that M$ wants to avoid.

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Silver badge

I read this yesterday

And since then have seen two large chain supermarkets and three smaller shops running XP Pro on their POS. How do I know? The inactive terminals with the screensaver that says XP Pro in big letters. :-) Also I believe many of those instamatic photo booths use XP. I know two types in France do because of times when the UI crashes and you're dumped back in to Windows. SocGen cash machines use Windows; don't know what version, it was frozen on BSOD. Crédit Mutuel uses some flavor of OS/2, saw one stuck in a reboot loop back in '06, which might seem a long time ago but I don't think these things get replaced frequently.

Given this, I think XP would have a huge following outside of the desktop. After all, I've run a slow but usable version of XP on a 466MHz Celeron with 128Mb memory and an 8Gb harddisc. Can you say that for any modern version? Might be able to push the spec lower by cutting out all the unnecessary things. Embedded stuff isn't going to be cutting edge...why should it be? Most of the time it is likely to be doing very little so a lower spec makes sense and keeps costs down.

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